The executive sales team at a start-up company recently challenged my contention that sales managers should be spending as much (if not more) time on developmental coaching as they do on account management.
The message I got from the executives was: “We’re a young company. We can’t do anything if we don’t have immediate revenue growth. We want our sales managers to do a lot of account management. We want them out there talking with reps about how deals are going and strategizing about how to reach a successful close. Maybe someday in the future—when things slow down—we can do more sales rep development, but not right now.”
I get it. I know that in many companies the topics of “revenue” and “revenue growth” are all-consuming. And every company, large or small, young or established, goes through periods when revenue is more critical than at other times.
If your company is in this situation, it may seem that having sales managers keep close track of every deal and helping their reps manage accounts is the best way to ensure that the company makes its numbers.
But the critical piece of information missing from this logic is that developmental coaching is the best way to drive revenue growth.
I’ve referenced before a 2015 Sales Management Association research report that demonstrated how sales coaching optimized for both “quantity and quality” led to 17% faster revenue growth. The details of the report explained that “quantity” meant sales managers across the board needed to do more coaching, and that “quality” means that coaching had included more focus on a rep’s development needs.
A 2017 report by CSO Insights led to a very similar conclusion: organizations that had a structured coaching approach and focused on developmental sales coaching had 16% better quota attainment.
To me, the message is clear: organizations need to give greater priority to developmental coaching— especially when revenue pressure is high! Sales managers have to spend more time observing reps and diagnosing their strengths and shortcomings. They have to help reps improve their skills and attitudes.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that sales managers should stop doing account management. I am arguing, though, that creating an environment where almost all a sales manager’s energy goes into account management is misguided.
I can’t predict what the right balance of account management and developmental coaching will be optimal for this start-up company. But several key managers have realized that, ironically, maybe they are undermining their ability to reach sales goals by focusing too much on account management. Do you think that could be true for your organization?